Amelia Earhart – An American Icon

Amelia Mary Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24th 1897. Her mother was Amy Otis Earhart who was a homemaker and her father Edwin Stanton Earhart, a lawyer. At a young age she enjoyed the life of a well to do family due to her grandfather, Alfred Otis.

Edwin Earhart having failed in his law practice was fortunate to get an executive position with the Rock Island Line Railroad in Des Moines, Iowa in 1905. He and his wife moved to Des Moines to set up house for their two daughters who stayed behind with their grandparents. It wasn’t until 1908 that the two sisters, Amelia and Muriel, joined their parents at their new home in Iowa. It was in 1914 that her mother left her husband because of his excessive drinking. She and her two daughters moved to Chicago to live with friends.

In 1917 at the age of 20 Amelia served as a nurse’s aid in a military hospital during WWI till its end in November 1918. In 1919 she entered Columbia University as a pre-med student. In 1920 she decided to end her studies at Columbia and went to California to be with her parents who had reconciled their marriage. It was in California that Amelia discovered her love for flying. Her interest was piqued at an aerial meet at Daughtery Field in Long Beach. Her interest turned into love when the next day she had the opportunity to fly in an open cockpit biplane, a short flight over Los Angeles. At that every moment she knew this was what she wanted, to fly airplanes.

Amelia got her flight lessons from Anita Snook, a pioneer female aviator. In 1922 Amelia was participating in record breaking events. For a short time she held the women’s attitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1925 having moved to Boston, Mass she got a job as a social worker. She also joined the Boston Chapter of the National Aeronautic Association. The Boston Globe called her one of the best woman pilot in the United States. On April 27th, 1926 she received a call from Captain H.H. Raily who asked her, “How would you like to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic?” Interesting to note that due to the fact that Amelia had no experience flying a multi engine plane. The tri engine Fokker plane called the Friendship was piloted by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon. Amelia was given the title commander of the flight. Though she was treated as a hero at the end of Friendship’s journey she later said she was only a passenger on the plane and the pilots Stultz and Gordon should get recognition for the flight.

It was on May 20th 1932 that Amelia made her 1st solo trip across the Atlantic ocean which was the longest non-stop distance any woman had flown solo. Then on January 11th,1935 Amelia was the first person to fly non-stop from Hawaii to California. Ten pilots had lost their lives attempting to cross the Pacific ocean before her. She landed in Oakland, California successfully accomplishing what no man or woman was able to do at that time.

Amelia’s last flight was an attempt to fly around the world. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan in an Electra plane left Miami, Fla. on June 1st, 1937 heading to California via around the world. Their flight took them to many destinations on their journey from Puerto Rico to South America, to Karachi, and other pre determined stops. It was on July 2nd that something went wrong. The last transmission from Earhart she reported that she was on course for Howland Island at 12,000 feet altitude. Never to be heard from again it was estimated that the plane was ditched in the ocean from 35 to 100 miles from Howland Island. there were 9 naval ships and 66 aircraft sent by President Roosevelt in search of The plane and its occupants. The search ended July 18th unsuccessful in its rescue attempt.

There are many theories about what happened that day to Earhart and Noonan. The truth is still not known, neither their bodies or wreckage of the plane were found.

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Author: Jacqueline Louise Gagnon